Commonwealth Criminal Code 1995 Offences


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Being charged with a Commonwealth criminal offence can turn your world upside down, leaving you feeling lost and alone. But with the help of Sydney’s best criminal lawyers, you can protect your rights and freedoms by fighting the charges to obtain the best possible result.

Although criminal matters are usually dealt with under state laws such as the Crime Act 1900 (NSW), the Commonwealth has the power to make laws in relation to certain criminal offences under the Commonwealth Criminal Code.

If you have been charged with an offence under the Commonwealth Criminal Code, it is likely that you matter will be prosecuted by the Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions or the Australian Federal Police.

These bodies have significant powers and resources, hence it is important to ensure that you speak to an expert criminal lawyer with a thorough knowledge of Commonwealth criminal law.

The various criminal offences under the Criminal Code include:

Internet Offences

There are several offences under the Commonwealth Criminal Code which involve the use of the internet for improper or illegal means.

  • Child pornography offences: Though child pornography is a crime under the Crimes Act 1900 (NSW), it can also constitute a Federal offence where you use a ‘carriage service’ to access, transmit, distribute, publish, promote or solicit child pornography material.
  • Making threats online: You may face penalties where you use the internet to make death threats, or threats of serious bodily harm and the other person fears that the threat will be carried out. These threats may be made via emails, websites and social media sits such as Facebook and Twitter. You may also face serious penalties for making ‘hoax threats’ – in other words, a false claim that an explosive, or a dangerous or harmful substance or thing has been or will be left somewhere.
  • Using the internet to menace, harass or cause an offence: You can be charged with a Federal offence where you use the internet in a way that a reasonable person would find menacing, harassing or offensive.

Telephone-related offences

The Commonwealth Criminal Code contains provisions in relation to telephone-related offences, for example:

  • Misuse of emergency service numbers: This refers to situations where you make a call to the police, ambulance or fire brigade and falsely claim that an emergency exists, or where the call is vexatious.
  • Making threats over the phone: This involves the making of death threats, or threats of serious bodily harm over the phone. It may also include situations where you make false claims that an explosive or harmful or dangerous thing has been or will be left somewhere.
  • Using phone calls to menace, harass or cause an offence: This refers to the making of a phone call or sending of a text message that a reasonable person would find menacing, harassing or offensive.

Post-related offences

There are various offences under the law which relate to using the postal service or mail, for example:

  • Sending or receiving child pornography through the post: Under the Commonwealth Criminal Code, you can be charged with an offence where you send, supply or obtain child pornography material through the post.
  • Sending threatening letters: There are various provisions under the Commonwealth Criminal Code that make it an offence to send a letter or postal article which contains a threat to kill or cause serious harm to another person.
  • Sending offensive material: You may be charged with an offence where you send something through the post that a reasonable person would find menacing, harassing or offensive.
  • Hoax letters: You can be charged with an offence where you use the post in a way that induces the false belief that the article contains an explosive or some kind of harmful substance or thing.

Computer offences against a Commonwealth entity

The Commonwealth Criminal Code contains sections which concern computer offences committed against government bodies. These include:

  • Using or modifying unauthorised information with the intention of committing a serious criminal offence: This involves accessing or modifying unauthorised material that is stored on a computer for the purposes of committing a serious criminal offence (an offence that is punishable by imprisonment of five years or more).
  • Producing data with the intention of committing a criminal offence: This involves the production of data (for example, computer viruses) to commit a computer-related offence.

Forgery of Commonwealth documents

The forgery of Commonwealth documents is a serious offence. Commonwealth forgery matters may involve:

  • Making a false document: This involves the making of a false document which causes a public official or electronic machine to accept it as genuine. It may also include situations where you use a false document to dishonestly obtain a benefit or influence a public official. More serious penalties apply where the document is a “Commonwealth document.”
  • Using false documents: You can also be charged with a Commonwealth offence where you intentionally use a forged document to obtain some benefit or advantage, and where you use the document to induce a public official or electronic machine to accept it as genuine.
  • Possessing machinery to create false documents: You may also be charged with an offence where you possess machinery or equipment to make false documents.

Money laundering

Money laundering essentially involves the use of money or property that has been earned illegally, or for some illegal purpose.

  • Dealing with the proceeds of crime: This involves the use or possession of money or property that has been obtained through criminal activity. The type of penalty that you will face depends on the amount of money that is involved.

People smuggling

People smuggling is a serious offence that may incur harsh penalties under Commonwealth law. It may involve things like:

  • People smuggling: This involves organising or facilitating the illegal entry of a person into Australia or some another country. You may face more serious penalties where, in the course of people smuggling, you subject a person to cruel, inhumane or degrading treatment, or where you assist in smuggling five or more persons.
  • Assisting with people smuggling: You may also face charges under Commonwealth law where you provide materials, support or resources to another person or organisation to assist with people smuggling.
  • Making, supplying or possessing false travel documents: Heavy penalties may apply where you make, provide or possess a fake travel or identity document, such as a passport or visa, for the purpose of unlawfully entering another country, or assisting someone else in illegally entering another country.

Theft of or receiving stolen Commonwealth property

Similar to State laws dealing with larceny and theft, Commonwealth laws exist in relation to the theft or receipt of stolen Commonwealth property.

  • Stealing Commonwealth property: This essentially involves the theft of ‘Commonwealth property.’ Commonwealth property is property that belongs to a ‘Commonwealth entity’ – such as a government body.
  • Receiving Commonwealth property: You may also be found guilty of an offence where you receive stolen Commonwealth property, or where you receive property and you know or reasonably believe that the property may have been stolen.

War crimes and crimes against humanity

Perhaps the most serious Commonwealth criminal offences are those involving war crimes or crimes against humanity. These may include:

  • Genocide: This refers to the killing, serious bodily harm or serious mental harm of one or more persons belonging to a national, ethnic, racial or religious group, with the intention of destroying that particular group in some way.
  • Crimes against humanity: This includes attacks on a person as part of a widespread attack on civilians. It may involve things like the killing, or forcible displacement of another person or group of persons.
  • War crimes: This involves causing the death or torture of one or more persons during an international war.

What penalties could I face?

The type of penalty that will apply in your case depends on the type of Commonwealth criminal offence that you have been charged with, as well as the facts and circumstances of your case.

For example, when determining the appropriate penalty in a Commonwealth criminal matter, the court will look at things like the maximum penalty that could apply, the seriousness of your actions, as well as any relevant subjective features, such as your previous criminal record and whether or not there are good prospects for your rehabilitation.

The types of penalties that you face include:

Why Sydney Criminal Lawyers?

Every day can seem stressful and challenging when you’ve been charged with a Commonwealth criminal offence. However, with Sydney’s best criminal lawyers on your side, you can rest assured that someone is fighting hard to protect your rights and freedoms.

Federal agencies like the Australian Federal Police and the Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions have significant resources at their disposal to investigate and prosecute suspected criminal offenders, so it’s particularly important to make sure that you’re getting the best possible legal representation when you’ve been charged with a Commonwealth crimina offence.

Sydney Criminal Lawyers has extensive experience successfully defending clients in a variety of Commonwealth criminal matters, including terrorism, fraud and threats made using telecommunications devices.

Our lawyers are experts in their field who go above and beyond the call of duty in investigating all evidence. In many cases, our experts have uncovered problems with the prosecution case during the course of their thorough investigations, resulting in matters being dropped before they go to court.

Our lawyers are fearless advocates who fight hard for justice, so if you end up in court, you are guaranteed the best possible legal representation.

Call us now on (02) 9261 8881 to discuss how we can help you win your Commonwealth criminal case.

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